Eventually, it became a numbers game in more ways than one.
The Ventura College men's basketball team outmanned and outclassed City College of San Francisco, 85-65, in a quarterfinal game of the State championships Thursday night at the San Jose State Event Center Arena.
Ventura (32-2), top-ranked in the state, meets Riverside (33-5) in a semifinal game at 6:30 tonight. Riverside defeated Columbia, 84-78, to advance.
The Pirates, with 14 players in uniform, ran San Francisco ragged in the second half to move within two victories of claiming their second consecutive state title.
San Francisco (25-10) had only eight players available.
Sophomore center Hakeem Ward finished with a game-high 28 points in leading the Pirates to their 18th win in a row.
"Everybody is trying to get focused," Ward said. "Everybody got the butterflies out today.
Ventura opened the second half with a 24-11 run to go ahead, 59-38, as the Rams began to wear down.
Ward, last season's state co-player of the year, led the blitz with 12 points, and Charles Woodard and Shannon Taylor each made two three-point baskets during the run.
Both teams squandered numerous scoring opportunities in the first half, missing several layups and short jump shots.
The Rams took a 6-2 lead, but Ventura bounced back for a 12-6 advantage on two free throws by Gerald Zimmerman.
Ventura failed to pull ahead by more than a handful of points until Shannon Taylor scored on an offensive rebound to give the Pirates a 32-23 lead with 1 minute 48 seconds left in the half.
Former Ventura Coach Phil Mathews, who just concluded his first season at the University of San Francisco, was on hand at San Jose State to watch the Pirates play. . . . Also at the tournament are various area men's coaches and assistants, including Canyons' Lee Smelser, Glendale's Brian Beauchemin, Oxnard's Ron McClurkin and Moorpark's Del Parker. The assistants include Mike Johnson of Oxnard and Remy McCarthy of Moorpark.
VENTURA WOMEN: C10